Dan Bylsma’s day-after attempt to clean up the mess the Penguins made in Game 4 in Columbus and have made of their first-round series against the Blue Jackets included an effort to clear up any perceived confusion as to how Game 4 should have ended.
“We all know and Marc knows he should have stayed in the net,” Bylsma confirmed this afternoon.
He was referencing Marc-Andre Fleury’s inexplicable bolt from the crease in an attempt to play a wildly bouncing puck behind the Penguins’ net with the Pens less than 30 seconds away from achieving a 3-2 victory and a three-games-to-one lead in the series.
Instead, the Blue Jackets turned the gift gaffe into an extra-attacker goal fired into an empty net and eventually won in OT, evening things up at two games apiece.
Apparently, Penguins winger Lee Stempniak was among the confused in the immediate aftermath.
"I think it was 100 percent the right play and it was just a bad break," Stempniak had said at Nationwide Arena.
Not so, the head coach corrected.
“Typically, the rule of thumb is, puck’s on the glass, you stay in the net,” Bylsma explained. “Puck’s on the dasher, you have a truer read on the play. Given the time of the game, the puck gets rimmed in, the play is to stay in the net and not go out and attempt a play on the puck.
“This one was on the glass, bouncing. We should have stayed in the net.”
Good thing that's been clarified.
Fleury’s folly and his subsequent whiff on a Nick Foligno shot from just inside the blueline early in overtime have turned this series into a monumental struggle.
Bylsma isn’t very happy about that, either.
He made sure there wasn’t any lingering confusion about that, as well.
“The work and compete and the battle level has probably been the most troubling thing from our team,” Bylsma said. “It has to be raised. It has to be up to a level that is necessary this time of year and (in) this type of hockey, playoff hockey. We have to have that in our game and in our team if we’re going to win this series.”
His use of the word “if” was most intriguing.
At 3-1, the Pens would be anticipating “when” this series would be won rather than wondering “if” it will be won right about now.
The Blue Jackets might, as well.
But at 2-2 the very real possibility exists the Penguins won’t survive this.
In response, Bylsma was uncharacteristically blunt in assessing the end of Game 4 and in appraising the play of his team through four games.
In doing so, it’s plausible Bylsma was stating his expectations not just of what must happen in Game 5 of the first round but also on what will have to happen beginning with Game 1 of the second round, assuming there’s such a thing in the Penguins’ future.
The work and compete and the battle level Bylsma longs for have been there at times against the Blue Jackets.
They were there in abundance in the first and third periods of Game 4.
But they haven’t been there for anything approaching the 60 minutes (or more on occasion) the Penguins will have to maintain if they’re going to accomplish anything beyond Columbus.
First things first.
Put three periods together in Game 5.
And make sure the goaltender knows his place at the conclusion of the third one.